Jul 30, 2014

Alameda Business Spotlight: 1400 Bar and Grill

Boyhood friends realize their dream of a place of their own. Grand opening is scheduled for Aug. 8. But friends, including Alameda Patch readers, are invited to a special preview on Aug. 6 at 4 pm.

Owners: Mike “Coop” Cooper and Yanni Placarakis

How did you two meet? Coop: We met in kindergarten. We went to Otis, Lincoln and Alameda High together. We’ve been talking about opening a place together for years and years and years.

What is your work experience? Coop: My first job was at La Bouillabaisse, which is now . I also worked at Sizzler and the Rusty Pelican. After college, I went to work in Houston and learned how to run a restaurant. Then I came back and worked at before I changed directions and became a teacher and principal. I’ve been in education for 23 years. In Alameda, I’ve been at Island High, Encinal and now Wood Middle School. Yanni: I started in college cutting produce. I’ve worked every position from dishwasher to general manager. I worked for 15 years in Oahu, five in Maui, five in Philadelphia and five in San Francisco at Kokkari.

What’s special about this location in the Croll's building? Yanni: The history, the soul. Anything that lasts 140 years has a certain soul to it. It was obvious to Mike and me when we walked in. Years ago, Mike and I would sit here and have drinks and talk about owning a bar some day, never thinking it would be this one. Coop: I really wanted our place to be on the West End, to be an anchor for the redevelopment of the West End. 

What renovations have you made? Yanni: When we first walked in, it was in total disrepair. It was dirty and filthy. Coop: The floors were in horrible shape. We had to fill in as much as two and a half inches in some places. They undulated. We leveled them and carpeted the floor. Yanni: We felt the soul of the place just screaming out: just bring me to life. It needed a little love. We’ve added our touches to give life and color. We’ve been fortunate enough to have my uncle Nick [Nickolas of Nick’s Fishmarket], who has opened restaurants across the country since 1965, give us direction.

Coop: We painted the walls a deep red and put new barstools in. A friend of ours, a craftsman, made this 18-foot bench for us out of fir. We bought chairs from Borders at the “kick ‘em when they’re down” sale. We’ve converted a small work room into a private dining room which is perfect for 10 to 12 people. We wanted to keep as much of the old tile as we could.

We found two of the lamps that are now hanging over the bar and took them down to and had them repaired. They made a third one for us. We really wanted to make the place feel warm.

I notice some great art up on the walls. Coop: We contacted , who liked what we are doing, so he’s letting us hang his work. A good friend of ours collects vintage rock and roll posters and he’s agreed to let us show his posters.

What do you want people to feel when they walk in the door? Yanni: Comfortable. Like they belong. Families are welcome. Kids are welcome. On the patio, dogs are welcome.

What type of food is on the menu? Coop: It’s going to be American food, nothing pretentious, nothing you can’t pronounce. You can come in and get a really good three-course dinner for a moderate price. Yanni: Comfort food made with quality ingredients and care and love. Our chef, Gabe Cortez, is helping us fine-tune the menu. He comes to us from Boulevard.

What about music? Coop: For me, the sound is really important. My daughter Hannah created the playlist. We’re also going to have live music here three or four nights a week initially. We’re going to have as eclectic a mix as we can—blues night, singer-songwriter night. There are so many different, interesting bands in the Bay Area. We’re going to do an Aloha Sunday every month. There are so many [Hawaiian] Island people who live around here. At our Aug. 6 preview party, Rene Escovedo and A Gozar will be playing.

What’s it like doing business in Alameda? Yanni; It’s great. It just makes it easier to treat family as friends and friends as family.

1400 Bar and Grill, 1400 Webster St., Alameda. Hours: Monday-Thursday, 3 p.m.-midnight. Friday, 3 p.m-2 a.m. Saturday, 8 a.m.-2 a.m. Sunday, 8 a.m.-midnight. Dinner served every day until 9 p.m. with early bird specials from 4 to 6 p.m. To learn more about the menu and live entertainment at 1400 Bar and Grill, click here.

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